Tag Archives: religion

… of The Holy Land in America

Can you copy the heritage? I’d rephrase: for example, can you bring home replica of certain historical site and claim that this replica holds onto the same historical importance?

During my most recent stay in Washington, DC I visited its very own Franciscan monastery. I’m not a religious person, and Christianity is quite far from my spiritual journey, so to say. Yet I enjoy visiting temples and cathedrals, synagogues and mosques, as many of them capture that moment of unity with oneself and divine – whatever the divinity itself means to you. To my surprise, the fact of visiting the monastery, even the mere desire of doing so, left most people shrugging shoulders. “Why bother,” – They say, – “It is not a real Franciscan hermitage, it does not have the history.”

For me this is quite a surprising assumption. Even if it was built just a century ago and its beautiful shrines are mere replicas, even if it shines with clean, crisp golden paint, even it does not smell of mold and 800 centuries, this monastery has all the right to arouse interest not only among historians and religion scholars, but among simple tourists as well. At least that what I thought before my visit, and it proved me right. Mind you, this friary is not just a museum, it is a functioning monastery.

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Located in Brookland, relatively diverse neighbourhood, The Franciscan Monastery was built in late 1890’s, but the plans of “Holy Land in America” started way before. The monastery architecture is a beautiful design, in Byzantium style with slight Romanesque influences and inspired by basilicas in Jerusalem and two cloisters in Rome.

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The monastery is surrounded by Rosary portico, decorated with early Christian symbols. The whole landscape is exact replica of holy sites that were photographed meticulously for the construction.

All the details, small and tiny, on the entering the church, are worth attention.

This is the inside of the church, look at the colours of the dome!

Interestingly enough, the main altar is located right in the center of the church, just beneath the central dome.

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However, the main treat is not even the main hall but rather the “catacombs.” One has to descend just few stairs and enter miniature door (one of many in monastery, which is the height of child of 6 years old: sometimes I felt like Alice in Wonderland wishing for cookie that would make me tiny and fit comfortably into the door space) — and voila, one find themselves inside the shrine of Bethlehem, which is the replica of Grotto of Nativity form the 4th century Church of Nativity.

 

Through the long tunnels, dimly lit by electrical candles, you touch the rough walls while passing by the shrines and bones of different saints and for a moment you feel that heavy history of medieval ages.

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At the end of the tunnels and various hallways you enter the Catacombs, which are the copy of early Christian catacombs of Rome. The wall decorations are copies of original frescoes.

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As I strolled through the land, lost within infinite silent gardens and captured by various solemn statues of St. Francis, I was immersed in the whole replica of history. It was replica from outside, but to me it succeeded in preserving the whole period of history, its essence and meaning.

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Singapore Tales

I want to share with you my Singapore. Very interesting place.

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Among intriguing features of the city-state what struck me most were wild macaque monkeys wandering on parking lots, ridiculously clean streets, people talking in mysterious Singlish, rich cultural trio “hindu-arabic-chinese” representing the city, business heaven aside to enormous Buddhist Temples spread all over area, nature reserves’ rain forests with myriad species, that special soft type of singaporean rain during rain season, botanical gardens full of silent practitioners of Qigong at 4am, and of course, infamous “benevolent” dictatorship (lovely word combination, isn’t it?).

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Macaques. Although mainly they stay in or nearby nature reserves (images on left and below), one gets feeling that they are wandering around everywhere, even in urban area. You keep hearing their birdish-like crying even when returning to the city, I guess it is their singaporean charisma.

Most of them are occupied with the same kind of species, but some develop quite annoying and terrifying attitude towards people in desperate search for food. And no, they do not appear particularly cute and sweet once you saw their mouth full of sharp, angry, almost vampire teeth.

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No, I’m not exaggerating: you know, bit off finger is not the worst they did to passers by. But, for the sake of a beautiful day and sunshine in my mind, I’m presenting only sweet photographs of them in Fauna gallery.

I think I will devote the whole separate post to photos of those macaques, too much to tell and show to fit here.

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Singlish. Incredible language, basically it is English-based Creole spoken in Singapore. Every single tourist guide assured me that everybody speaks English there. No, it is not English: maybe it is based on it, but except of some basic vocabulary words, everything else is far from being related. No good lah’– sorry, no idea what you just said to me.

Obviously, nobody could understand me out there.

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Botanical Gardens at 4ish am is something unforgettable. You feel morning with your lungs, the air is so fresh and silent. The same silence is kept among people who woke up that early for jog, qigong practice, or just simple meditation.

We pass by each other, we smile, say “good morning”– but almost whispering. On isolated hill stands monk and meditates flowing above the ground. Several groups of (mostly) old ladies practice qigong, hidden behind enormous bushes.

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It might sound strange but these gardens were only ones to leave me actual feeing of being in Orient, of touching complete opposite side of the world.

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I came just in time for startup of rain season: November-December. The rain in Singapore is very punctual, by the way. You can check your watch with the rain: every day it started at the same exact time, and stopped hour or so later. The intervals were very convenient for planning the day. My huge surprise came when on the first day I noticed that the more rain is falling, the drier I become. Because of the climate, you don’t feel that it is actual rain. It is very soft (almost silky), and has the tendency to miss you with the raindrops falling too far from each other. I do not know how else to describe this phenomenon.

Buddhist Temples. The least I saw in there was trace of religion. I saw touch of death with crematorium and several rows of tablets with photos on them, I saw devoted following of traditions, I saw simplicity and space, I saw the thin trace of history. I did not see any belief, though.

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Little praying man

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Singapore remained in my imagery as Orient collage, as a westernized society and mosaic of colours, thick humidity and forgotten history.

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